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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Nos. 11 and 18 teams from Joe Gibbs Racing were back in the NASCAR Cup Series inspection line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, five days after both cars were disqualified in post-race tech at Pocono Raceway. Instead of starting and finishing 1-2 last Sunday, teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were knocked to the back of the finishing order, elevating third-place finisher Chase Elliott to victory.
JGR officials opted against appealing the penalty for modifications to the front fascia of both cars earlier this week. Friday, it was back to business for both teams.
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“I think we all sort of admitted we made a mistake or an error in the build process,” Ben Beshore, No. 18 crew chief, told NASCAR.com. “So we accept the penalty, and yeah, we’re going to move forward, march on and try to make the best of Indy this weekend.”
Had the victory stood, Hamlin would have been level with Elliott as the series’ only three-time winners. Instead, Elliott stands alone as a four-time victor, and Hamlin became the first driver to have a win revoked since 1960, when Emanuel Zervakis was docked for an illegal fuel tank.
The No. 11 Toyota unloaded Friday in an effort to turn the page, without the looming uncertainty of a Pocono appeal.
“There were things we need to do better, so that’s what we’re focused on,” Chris Gabehart, No. 11 crew chief, told NASCAR.com. “The appeals process is typically a pretty tall mountain to climb. It takes a lot of effort and exercise, and history shows you kind of how that goes. So we’re more focused internally on how we can get better, just like we do each and every week.”
Hamlin tried to make at least some light of the situation on social media the day after the decision, playfully offering up the trophy and champagne for eBay auction fodder. But deep down, Gabehart says, the ruling smarts, and that’s for everyone who makes the No. 11 go.
“It stinks for everybody, not just Denny. Denny is one member of this 11 team — one member. It stinks for everybody, and if it didn’t, I would be disappointed with the amount of intensity with which the 11 team wants to win,” Gabehart said. “So it stinks for everybody, but it’s motivating, too. In my three and a half years with the 11 car, we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve won a lot of races. I don’t know of any team that’s won more in that time frame, but we have lost a lot of races, too. So this is no different. We’ll learn from it, get better and move on.”